Western Union Invests in Finint Srl

Western Union Financial Services has completed the purchase of a 30% equity interest in Finint Srl. Finint has been Western Union’s money transfer agent since 1995 and offers Western Union services at more than 2,200 locations throughout Italy. In July, Western Union purchased a 30 percent equity interest in another Italian agent, Angelo Costa, S.p.A., with a network of nearly 3,000 locations throughout the country. Western Union has approximately 202,000 Agent locations in more than 195 countries and territories.

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June Payout of the Debit Settlement Likely

It looks like merchants will have to wait until June before they receive any monetary relief from the “VISA Check/MasterMoney Antitrust Litigation.” In December 2003, the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, New York gave final approval of the settlement and of a plan to allocate and return the more than $3 billion in monetary relief to merchants. Since then, there have been three appeals to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court’s decision granting final approval of the settlements. Constantine & Partners, lead counsel for the merchant plaintiffs, says any appeals to the Supreme Court are likely to be resolved by June 2005 and distribution of the funds to merchants will start shortly afterward.

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Navy FCU Posts Solid Portfolio Gains in Q4

The nation’s largest credit union bank credit card issuer posted an 11% gain in outstandings, and a 14% increase in volume during the fourth quarter, compared to one-year ago. VA-based Navy FCU reported 4Q/04 outstandings of $1.78 billion, ranking it as the 15th largest U.S. issuer according to CardData. Fourth quarter volume was $1.1 billion, compared to $0.98 billion for 4Q/03. For the full year, Navy FCU posted gross dollar volume of $3.98 billion, compared to $3.57 billion for 2003. The issuer’s account base increased 14%, from 863,546 accounts to 983,801 accounts. However, active accounts increased only 5%, from 513,351 accounts to 538,811 accounts. At the end of 2004, Navy FCU had 1,133,820 cardholders. The credit union issues “Classic,” “Gold,” and “Platinum” VISA and MasterCards, as well as the “nRewards” VISA and MasterCard, “TravelValue” VISA, “Student” VISA card, and, a “Secured” VISA and MasterCard. For complete details on Navy FCU’s fourth quarter performance visit CardData ([www.carddata.com][1]).

NAVY FCU SNAPSHOT
4Q/04
Outstandings: $1,775,319,090
Volume: $1,109,555,661
Accounts: 983,801
Actives: 538,811
Cards: 1,133,820
Source: CardData (www.carddata.com)

[1]: http://www.carddata.com

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Chase BP VISA Launches a Three-Month Promotion

Chase has launched the three-month “Above and Beyond Promotion” for its “BP VISA” card, offering up to $50 in “BP Gift Cards” for new cardholders. New BP Visa cardmembers will earn a $30 BP Gift Card after their first card purchase made within three months of account opening. Cardmembers can also earn an additional $20 BP Gift Card when they spend at least $1,000 in everyday card purchases such as gasoline, groceries or recurring payments during this three-month period. BP is of one of the world’s largest energy companies. PMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) is a leading global financial services firm with assets of $1.1 trillion and operations in more than 50 countries.

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Smartpay Jieyin Expands to Jiangsu Province

Smartpay Jieyin announced the launch of its electronic payment
system in Jiangsu Province. The system launch in Jiangsu closely follows the launch of Smartpay services in Shanghai, Anhui, Chongqing and Liaoning. With the addition of Jiangsu, over 35 million mobile phone subscribers can now use Smartpay to pay for merchant offerings conveniently and electronically. The system allows mobile users to pay their phone bills, top up their pre-paid accounts, purchase online gaming time and other merchant offerings simply by sending an SMS message. In addition, mobile subscribers will be able to access a wide variety of payment and information services. Partner merchants and banks including China Unicom and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China have already been fully integrated into the system.

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RoboServer Systems Targets QSR Self-Serve

RoboServer Systems has introduced a kiosk-like machine for self-ordering at fast-food and quick-serve restaurants. The new “RoboServer” is powered by a Dell “Optiplex GX60” computer system. The machine uses the KIS “Stealth 110” kiosk body and runs RoboServer Systems’ proprietary software. Users place their order using a touchscreen and then pay for their order with the machine’s bill acceptor or credit card processor. RoboServer Systems has been in business for three years. There are more than 115,000 fast-food restaurants in the U.S. producing $140 billion in sales annually.

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Revolving Credit Takes a Big Dip in Nov

Revolving credit nose-dived in November as consumers cut more than $7 billion off total revolving credit. The 11% fall-off follows an explosion in revolving credit in September when growth soared by nearly 18%. According to the Federal Reserve, Americans owed $780.9 billion in revolving credit at the end of November, compared to $787.5 billion for October. One-year ago revolving credit stood at approximately $755 billion. In October revolving credit hit an all-time high of $787.5 billion. Bank credit card debt (excluding store and gas credit cards) at the end of the third quarter was $662 billion, or roughly 84% of total revolving credit, according to CardData ([www.carddata.com][1]). At the end of November, Americans were $2085.4 billion in debt, excluding home mortgages.

REVOLVING CREDIT HISTORICAL ($billions)
Nov 04 Oct 04 Sep 04 Jun 04 Mar 04 Dec 03
GRWTH: -11.0% 3.7 17.8 10.4 -1.9 5.4
$OWED: $780.3 787.5 785.1 765.2 768.9 758.7
Source: Federal Reserve; revised figures as of 1/07/05;
For complete historical data visit CardData (www.carddata.com)

[1]: http://www.carddata.com

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LaserCard Quarterly Revenues Soften

LaserCard estimates its revenues for the fourth calendar quarter to be in the range of $6.0 to $6.2 million compared to $7.8 million in the prior quarter, and the firm also announced it has hired San Francisco-based Odenberg, Ullakko, Muranishi as its new independent registered accounting firm. The Company will provide further information in its earnings call early in February. LaserCard Corporation (www.lasercard.com) manufactures and markets LaserCard(R) optical memory cards, chip-ready Smart/Optical(TM) cards and other advanced-technology secure identification cards.

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Western Union Cuts Fees for Southeast Asia

Western Union has cut its money transfer fee to $7 for transfers to Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Thailand and the effected areas of India through February 15th. In addition, the Foundation has agreed to match all donations made directly to the Foundation by First Data/Western Union employees to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Similar programs are in place for Western Union agents. Western Union Financial Services, Inc., a subsidiary of First Data Corp. (NYSE: FDC) is an international leader in consumer money transfer services. Consumers can quickly and reliably pay bills and transfer money around the globe using the company’s proprietary money transfer network. The First Data Western Union Foundation, the charitable organization of First Data Corporation (NYSE: FDC), supports philanthropic initiatives worldwide.

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Online Consumer Spending Jumps 26% in 2004

Online consumer retail spending and online travel spending topped $117 billion last year, a 26% gain over 2003. During the recent holiday season, consumers racked up $15.8 billion in online retail sales and $7.8 billion in online travel sales, a 29% and 28% year-over-year gain, respectively. comScore Networks says its research shows that a group of 25 multi-channel retailers, or those conducting sales both online and offline, posted an aggregate year-over-year growth rate that was approximately twice that of online retail in total. comScore Networks noted that through December, holiday season growth was tracking at 23% but it accelerated dramatically during the weeks ending December 19 and December 26, with sales growing by 57% and 53%, respectively.

Online Consumer Spending
Excludes Auctions and Large Corporate Purchases

2003 2004 Y/Y CHNG
(billions) (billions)
Non-Travel (Retail) $52.9 $66.5 26%
Travel $40.4 $50.9 26%
Total $93.2 $117.4 26%
Source: comScore Networks

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Arby’s Launches the First QSR Gift Card

Arby’s System has teamed with Comdata’s Stored Value Systems to launch the first gift card for a quick service restaurant. Available now at participating restaurants, customers can purchase gift cards in any amount between $5 and $50. The electronic card replaces the old paper gift certificate program. Comdata Corporation (www.comdata.com) is redefining the movement of money and information through technology for businesses, their customers and employees. Arby’s, LLC is an innovative restaurant company, bringing consumers fresh and unique tasting food.

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EMERGING THINKING

The Competition Commission has raised concerns over the limited
competitive pressure on store credit card pricing and payment protection
insurance sold with such cards.
The CC document, “Emerging Thinking,” suggests that consumers are insensitive to store card costs and that they lack choice for insurance services sold with the cards.
The document has been delivered to store card issuers in the U.K. and the parties are being asked to respond to the “Emerging Thinking” by the end of January. The CC then plans a further round of hearings during February. The Emerging Thinking document identifies two interdependent markets: an “upstream” market for the provision of store card credit and related services to retailers by credit providers; and a “downstream” market for the provision by credit providers and retailers jointly of store card and related services to the retailer’s customers. The CC is required to investigate whether any “features” of the relevant markets prevent, restrict or distort competition. The $9 billion U.K. store card market is dominated by four players who control 90% of the market. The inquiry was referred by the Office of Fair Trading March 18, 2004. The CC is required to publish its final report by March 17, 2006.

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